BMW unveiled their vision for the future of motorcycling this week – and it doesn’t involve petrol, protective clothing or even a helmet! Dubbed ‘Vision Next 100’, the sci-fi, concept was ridden on stage at a special world unveiling in Santa Monica, California.
And although largely a mock-up, the machine is a showcase for technologies BMW expect to see in the coming generations. These include: zero-emissions electric power; a ‘Flexi-frame’ that improves handling, active tyres that adapt to the terrain and, most radically of all, a Self-Levelling System’ which, BMW say, renders the machine uncrashable so doing away with the need for any protective clothing or helmet!
The unveiling was the final of four futuristic BMW launches this year collectively dubbed ‘Next 100’. Conceived to mark the German company’s centenary, the Munich firm asked its four leading brands – BMW cars, MINI, Rolls-Royce and BMW motorcycles – to produce visions of their future. A futuristic BMW car was unveiled in Munich in March; a Dan Dare-style MINI and driverless Rolls-Royce came in London in June and now this two wheeler completes the set.
And although neither this machine, nor even perhaps anything close to it, will ever reach production, the concepts and technologies it displays should be taken seriously – after all, they’re clearly on the agenda of one of the world’s leading manufacturers.
“It’s our vision for motorcycling,” BMW Motorrad design chief Edgar Heinrich told RealRiders. “To us at BMW, motorcycle riding means a lot more than just mobility – it’s a lifestyle choice, a spirit of adventure, the final analogue experience in a more and more digital world.
“And we found that, by emphasizing the riding experience and combining that with a self-balancing system and digital technology, the vehicle can act with foresight and protect the rider at all times. As a result there’s no need for protective clothing or even a helmet. There’s no way the bike can topple over anymore.”
But being ‘crash-proof’ is just the start. In addition, the ‘Next 100’ machine Features of previously unheard of technologies and ideas – so much so that the fact it’s electric barely raised an eyebrow. Yet the core ideas of it all, bizarre as It may sound, is to return to the basic, natural appeal of motorcycling.
“We want to give customers the same sense of freedom that they experienced in the very early days of BMW,” design chief Friedrich told us. “We want to give them the same sense of freedom, of the wind in their hair, of making all your senses alert. And with our bike owners will be able to concentrate on this experience with no interference. This is how we envisage the motorcycle of the future, combining the best of the analogue and digital worlds.”
The distinctive triangle Shape along with that of the Boxer engine and black livery with white stripe is intended to evoke memories of the original R32 of 1923, BMW’s first motorcycle. Even BMW’s famous logo is highlighted, lighting up in the company’s blue and white colours.
‘Next 100’ has what BMW call a ‘Flexi-Frame’ which is flexible, dynamic and active and only a frame in the sense that it connects the wheels. When the bars turn the frame flexes to enable a change direction the thinking being that at low speeds steering can be light and manageable while at higher speed it can also be stable.
Crucial to the concept. A gyro system operated by digital electronics to the effect that the bike can’t fall over. “It doesn’t tip over,” Edgar Heinrich told RealRiders. “Even when standing still. A side stand is only used when the system is shut down.”Heinrich says it will help both new and more established riders to steadily boost their experience, skills and enjoyment.
An unspecified electric motor producing zero emissions styled in homage to the BMW Boxer unit. More radically, however, it is capable of changing its shape according to prevailing conditions and aerodynamic and coolng requirements.
No simple round, black hoops these. BMW say they will all be active and dynamic so that,
apart from having the traditional ‘cushioning effect’ they’ll also have a‘ versatile profile that can adapt to different conditions’.
“In the future riders will be able to enjoy motorcycling without protective clothing,” said Heinrich – the Next 100 rider instead has instead clothing designed to be fashionable and supportive – a bionic structure would give physical support.
NO HELMET – JUST A VISOR
With no possibility of a crash, BMW believe there is no need to wear a helmet. Instead, a visor would be available that provides eye protection and doubles as a data display within for such as the racing line, map and navigational information.